On the latest Sporticast episode, hosts Scott Soshnick and Eben Novy-Williams speak with Jon Patricof, CEO and co-founder of Athletes Unlimited, about how his company envisions the future of professional sports in the U.S.
Athletes Unlimited has already launched leagues in women’s softball, women’s lacrosse and women’s volleyball, with its women’s basketball circuit set to debut later this week. Patricof discusses how he and partner Jonathan Soros, a prominent investor, have decided which sports to pursue in the first few years of the company.
He also discusses how they’ve chosen to structure the leagues, which place a heavy emphasis on the athletes themselves. There are no geographically based teams and no franchise names, so the only prominent IP around the league is the athletes themselves. There are also no team owners, no general managers and no coaches—to play in the basketball league, for example, women need to have received an invitation from one of the four members of the player executive committee. The league also gives every athlete a 20-year share of long-term profits, which Patricof says is another way of empowering the players themselves.
For now the average salary will be about $20,000 for five weeks of work (not inclusive of long-term profit share). While Patricof acknowledges “that is not a lot of money,” Athletes Unlimited encourages its athletes to play in other leagues if possible, and is looking for other ways to grow the opportunity. For example, in softball, its first sport, the league is launching a second two-week season, so players can have 25-30% more earning opportunities.